Dallas Police Chief Renee Hall has sparked outrage throughout the law enforcement community following comments she made during a news conference regarding violent crime. While Chief Hall was speaking about recent homicide cases she stated, “There are individuals in this city who have returned from prison who cannot find a job, who are not educated. In those instances those individuals are forced to commit violent acts.”
Chief Hall’s comments were met with swift condemnation from multiple individuals, including Mike Mata, the head of the Dallas Police Association. In a statement to a local television affiliate, Mata expressed his frustration with Chief Hall’s comments and made it clear that he doesn’t ‘believe anyone is forced to violently attack another person’.
As the outrage grew, Chief Hall sought to clarify her comments via the following statement: “Today’s point was simple – there is no excuse for crime. Crime in general, however, is on the rise in Dallas for many reasons. One of them being a lack of resources and opportunity. In no way am I using that as an excuse to commit a crime. However, we have to work together as a community to remain vigilant and pro-active. I’ve asked our pastoral community, as a beginning, to develop ways to teach people how to resolve disputes without violence and find opportunities without resorting to crime.”
I suppose Chief Hall should be given some credit for attempting to clarify her comments. However, the reality of the situation is that the damage has already been done no matter how much she tries to backtrack or clarify. If she were just a regular citizen claiming that some ex-convicts were forced to commit violent crimes due to lack of education, and being unable to find work, it could be brushed aside as just crazy talk. However, when the top law enforcement officer in the city makes that statement it has serious consequences.
How do the officers under her command feel about their chief essentially making excuses for the very criminals they have to arrest? Furthermore, how do the victims of those violent crimes feel when the top cop is saying that the person who assaulted them was forced to do it because they could not find a job or weren’t educated? In fact, some of those ex-convicts who aren’t committing violent crimes should likely be upset too. In fact, the only people who are probably happy about Chief Hall’s comments are the repeat violent offenders and their defense attorneys. It’s not hard to imagine that Chief Hall’s comments will be used by a violent offender, or their attorney, as a justification for why the courts should show leniency.
What makes Chief Hall’s comments even more offensive is that they are coming from someone who is a person of color and a woman. It just gives ammunition to those who believe that a person of color, or a woman, cannot be trusted to handle such a high-ranking position. On one hand, it comes off as if she is trying to excuse the behavior of those violent offenders of color simply because she is a person of color. While she never specified race many were able to pick up on which offenders she was speaking about. Additionally, her comments make it appear as if she is being ‘too emotional’ in her decision-making just because she is a woman. So, while Chief Hall may have believed that she was speaking for herself she forgot that her comments would reflect poorly on other people of color, other women and other members of law enforcement.
When I first read Chief Hall’s comments I was completely dumbfounded. What would possess a law enforcement officer, especially the chief, to try and justify the acts of violent offenders? Especially when one considers that there are plenty of former convicts who do not resort to violent acts just because they are unable to find a job or lack education. Hell, there are plenty of people who are uneducated, and unemployed who don’t resort to crime, violent or otherwise. So, Chief Hall’s comments become even more offensive and ridiculous when viewed in the larger context.
One has to wonder how the other law enforcement officers under Chief Hall’s command can continue to respect her after her comments. Obviously, they can’t publicly condemn her. But it isn’t out of the realm of possibility to think that she has lost the respect and trust of not only some of the officers under her command, but the larger Dallas community. How can the victims of violent crime feel confident that the person who harmed them will be properly punished if the chief is on record essentially saying that the perpetrators were forced to commit violent acts?
Now, the obvious solution would be that Chief Hall should be forced to step down in an effort to restore confidence to both law enforcement officers and the larger community. However, that seems to be an unlikely outcome. Yet if Chief Hall remains in her position she should have the decency to reach out to her fellow officers, as well as the larger Dallas community, to realize the full impact of her comments. Simply, backtracking, or attempting to clarify the comments, is just not good enough. If nothing else, she should at least remember the position she holds before she attempts to excuse the acts of violent criminals. That should be the bare minimum that one should expect from a law enforcement officer, especially the chief.